There is no limit on what may be used as a symbol. As a result many of the objects mentioned in the Bible or used in church have become symbols over time. Many of these designs only reference the events where they were used, but there are exceptions.
To keep things somewhat simple, I’ve broken up the designs listed on this page into three lists. The first two lists are based on where the object was mentioned or used in the Bible, while the final list is a jumble of everything left over.
As with any of these lists, if there is a tutorial to guide you through drawing a design, the name of the symbol will link you there.
Symbols based on events and objects from the Old Testament
|Ark of the Covenant|
This sacred chest held the tablets given by God to Moses, manna and Aaron’s rod. It was quite an important artifact during the Old Testament.
|Dagger and Shield|
In one of the more unusual tests of faith in the Bible, Abraham nearly offered his son as a sacrifice. Here that action is remembered with a dagger (or knife) representing Abraham. The shield next to it represents the God’s promise to Abraham that his children would be as numerous as the stars. The largest star in the shield represents Abraham’s greatest descendant: Jesus Christ.
|Door and Lintel|
When God sent the final plague to Egypt, the Israelites protected themselves by painting lamb’s blood on their doorposts. Now in the present bloodied doors represent protection through the blood of the Lamb.
When Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden, God had a flaming sword appear to bar the way to the Tree of Life. Now the fiery sword stands for the expulsion from Paradise.
As it is one of the most famous Bible stories, it’s not much of a surprise to see that the Ark has become a popular reference to the story of the Flood.
A scroll usually represents God’s Holy Law. More specifically, it represents the Jewish Torah or the Pentateuch (the first five books of the modern Bible).
|Sun, Moon and Stars|
This design references one of Joseph’s famous dreams (Genesis 37:9). This dream depicted his family as the sun, moon and stars. The twelve stars represent Joseph and his brothers, while the sun and moon represent their parents.
Two tablets are a clear reference to the second pair of tablets Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai. As such, they represent the Ten Commandments. It’s also worth noting that how the numbers are arranged is somewhat arbitrary. The left tablet may have the first three, four or five Commandments while the rest are displayed on the right tablet.
Symbols based on events and objects from the New Testament
A solitary candle reflects John 8:12 where Jesus identified Himself as the light of the world.
Holy communion is one of the more well known and holy rites in the church. Unsurprisingly then, it is represented by the objects used in it, such as the chalice.
|Coat and Dice|
As Christ was being crucified, the Roman solders gambled for his belongings.
Revelation mentions that those who are faithful believers will be rewarded with a crown in Heaven. This symbol can also refer to Jesus’ sovereignty as Lord and King.
|Heart Pierced by Dagger|
This is a symbol for Mary, as it pictures the prophecy given to her in Luke 2:35.
A lamp is often used to symbolize learning and wisdom, as highlighted in the well known verse “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet” (Psalm 119:105).
An image of the three nails used to mount Christ to the cross reminds us of His suffering.
|Pitcher and Basin|
Back in Biblical times people usually went about barefoot or in sandals. Either way, they ended up with rather dirty feet and it was traditional for a slave to wash the guest’s feet. In an unusual display of humility, Jesus washed his disciple’s feet when by right it should have been the other way around. The pitcher and basin used for this once common act now represent Christ’s surprising humility.
|Purse and Coins|
Judas Iscariot sold out Christ for 30 silver coins, and nowadays both the coins and moneybag are a symbol for his betrayal.
Also known as simply a whip, the scourge was a very painful means of punishment back in the day. While many saints were beaten with one, Jesus Himself was scourged repeatedly prior to the crucifixion, making this weapon a symbol of His Passion.
|Shell and Droplets|
This is easily recognized as a symbol for baptism, specifically baptism through sprinkling.
Other symbols based on objects
For ages, church bells have been used to call people to gather and worship. As a symbol, the bell still calls people to think of the spiritual instead of the secular.
A pair of candles also suggests Christ’s dual nature, being both fully human and fully divine.
In the Bible the presence of God is often pictured with flames. The fires seen at Pentecost are one such example.
Understandably, the harp represents music, especially music performed to worship.
Unsurprisingly, the image of an open book is used to represent the Holy Bible.
A burning torch is a simple symbol for witnessing — that is, bringing a light to the world.